Back to school season is back. Navigating your way through university or college can seem like a minefield, so you need to be equipped with the right student gadgets and tech. We point you in the direction of essential college (and uni) tech that will help you to survive some of the best years of your life.
We’ve picked out the best, budget-friendly (for the most part) and cool tech gadgets: from laptops, tablets, and power banks, to portable Bluetooth speakers, headphones, printers and more.
We’re also collecting the best back to school sales and tech deals in our dedicated article. Though for even more best tech for university or college, check out smart gadgets that can save you money and 10 free iPad, iPhone apps for university students over on Macworld.
1. WD My Passport Ultra 1TB Portable
This external hard drive is compatible with both Windows and Mac (though you’ll need to reformat it), and offers 1TB of space. It’s perfect for storing all your photos, music, movies (and oh yeah, assignments too) and everything else that’s precious through your uni days.
It has a USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 compatibility and is available on Amazon for £50/$54.
2. Xiaomi Mi Power Bank Pro 10,000mAh
Powerbanks are perfect for someone who is constantly on-the-go, and would use a lecture as an opportunity to re-charge a smartphone.
The Mi Power Bank Pro sits at #2 in our chart of the best power banks and portable chargers. It’s slim with a nice-looking aluminum matte finish, and you can pick it up from Amazon for under £30/ US$23.
It’s compact, light and durable and will deliver 10,000mAh to your mobile devices. That’s enough to charge your smartphone at least twice and probably three times.
Yes, Evernote is an app and not a gadget, but it will work within all gadgets and is well worth the download. Find it for Android here.
If you need to jot down uni lecture notes, lists and timetables, Evernote will keep everything together.
Another handy feature is Evernote’s camera. You can use it to scan, digitalise and organise paper documents, handwritten notes and drawings – a perfect solution for those annoying times you need to copy down a diagram but are taking notes on your laptop.
Also check out 10 free iPad, iPhone apps for university students over on Macworld.
4. Best tech to buy for university or college 2016: Cafetiere Hot Mug
Simple, cheap and nifty – the Zyliss hot mug is a cafetiere on-the-go. Instead of taking five to 10 minutes in the morning to plunge your coffee from home, just whip it up in the same cup you’re going to drink it from and head out the door.
It will no doubt save you money over buying a coffee every day. Available on Amazon for £10.99/ US$9.99, though often less.
5. Apple MacBook Air (2018)
Many, many hours are spent on a laptop as a student, so it’s an important investment. Having one that is light and easy to carry around is helpful for students on-the-move, that’s why we recommend the new MacBook Air 13-inch.
It is pricey though, starting at £1,099/US$1,099, but students also qualify for the Apple Education Store discount (right now you can get a free pair of Beats headphones with the purchase of a Mac computer or iPad too). Go to the Apple Education Store now.
You can also find a discount on Amazon, where it’s currently £1,069/ US$1,033 for the 128GB model. For other options, we also have a laptop buying guide that rounds up the best laptops.Read our full Apple MacBook Air (2018) review
6. Kensington Combination Ultra Laptop Lock
This low-cost gadget may seem unnecessary to some, but could ease the mind of a safety-cautious person. We’ve all heard the horror stories of laptops being stolen from flats or uni accommodation, and if that has been you, you don’t want to be burnt again.
A laptop lock will secure your device to your desk so if you leave it in your room you can feel safe knowing its more difficult to steal.
The Kensington Combosaver has a 4-wheel combination lock and a slim lock head to fit slim notebooks, but you can buy laptop locks for about £2 too (though we can’t vouch for how protective it will be).
Available on Amazon for £33.33/ US$32.96, though you’ll often find discounts.
7. Protect Your Bubble Gadget Insurance
Student gadget insurance is another technology must have for college and university. University and college, as rewarding as it is, can bring a whole new world of risks to your device: from loss, theft, to just plain old damage (don’t worry, we won’t tell mum about the time you played beer pong on the same table as your laptop).
Protect Your Bubble (UK and Ireland only) provides gadget insurance and students can get 15% off. Get this deal here.
Phones are also particularly risk-prone (you may even be reading this through a cracked screen). Fortunately, there are a tonne of phone insurance services such as Gadget Cover, Endsleigh, Simplesurance – you can see which one suits you the most in our guide to the best phone insurance.
A VPN, or virtual private network, lets you browse the web securely and lets you access content that might be geographically blocked. If you’re an international student who wants to access content from home that may not be available where you’re studying, a VPN is a must-have.
We named PureVPN the cheapest and best all-rounder in our round up of the best VPNs. You can currently get PureVPN for US$3.33 per month for a 2-year subscription – which saves you 82% from the regular price. It’s great value for a student budget!
Students can also find a discount on Nord VPN over at the Tech Advisor Student Beans page where you can get a 3-year plan for £1.89 per month. Nord currently sits at the top of our Best VPN list.Read our full PureVPN review
9. Bitdefender Total Security 2019
Along with VPNs, another back to school computer essential is antivirus. Nothing’s worse than a system meltdown in the middle of exam and essay-writing season.
There are many brands to choose from, and we’ve ranked the best ones here. Bitdefender Total Security 2019 sits at the top of our list, with five stars our of five.
In the UK, you can already find the 2020 version; it costs £35 for a year , reduced from £69.99 ( get this deal here). If you’re in the US, it’s $49.99, reduced from $89.99 ( get this deal here).
Over at Tech Advisor student deals page, you can also find 60% off McAfee.
10. Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
While this may sounds obvious, a phone is an essential student gadget.
Chances are you have a phone already. If you don’t, or are looking for a change but limited to a student budget, we would recommend the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7, which ranks first place in our round up of the best budget smartphones.
The Redmi Note 7 features an all glass design and a dual-camera with 48Mp lens. It also boasts and incredible all-day battery – perfect for student life. You can read our full review here.
We also have a round up of the best phone deals of the month, which you can see here.
And of course, you can’t forget a good SIM plan to go with that phone…Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 review
11. SIM plan
You may already have a phone, but it’s never a bad time to shop around for a good SIM plan. In fact, students can save on SIM plans as nearly every network carrier offers student discounts. Read all about the best phone contracts for students here.
We would recommend a strong data plan for students, especially if you’re quite active on social media. Three Mobile’s Go Binge plans let you use Snapchat without using up data. You can see all Three Go Binge data plans here.
Of course, Three isn’t the only carrier out there with competitive deals. Another great contender is the newcomer Smarty that offers credits towards your next month’s bill if you have any unused data at the end of the month. Its plans start as low as £6.25 per month for 1GB data and unlimited minutes and text, though you can get unlimited data for just £25 per month with no speed restrictions too. See all Smarty plans here.
Another great resource for budget student SIM plans is our student deals page over at Student Beans. There you can find budget plans and discounts from major networks and retailers too, on all sort of cool student gadgets.
We’ve also rounded up the best SIM-only deals, where you can compare cheap SIM-only contracts here using our SIM deals comparison tool.
12. Budget Tablet
Although having a laptop is crucial, a lot of students prefer a more casual device to take quick notes in classes. Getting a tablet doesn’t have to be pricey either.
The 2019 7-inch Amazon Fire costs only £49.99 or $49.99 in the US, and offers a decent screen, a microSD slot for more storage, and an easy-to-use operating system. It’s also great to take on public transport when you need to need to quickly look over notes before a test.
Here’s everything you need to know about the All-new Amazon Fire 7.
To look at other cheap tablet options, check out our best budget tablet buying guide. If you’re after tablets on sale, also see our monthly round up of the best tablet deals.Read our full Amazon Fire 7 (2019) review
13. Budget Printer
It may seem old-fashioned, and there will no doubt be printers available at your university, but it often comes in handy to have a printer at home for late-night assignments that need printing before the morning, or those concert tickets you almost forgot.
It may work out cheaper to buy a budget printer than to pay for each sheet of paper all year at university, unless your university gives you free printing.
The HP Officejet 3831 is inexpensive for the upfront purchase and the ink, and if you just want to print assignments from time to time it’s great value. In the UK, you can find it on Amazon for under £50.
It can print from phones and tablets as well as PCs and laptops – plus you can control it from Alexa devices.
For more budget printer options, see our round up of the best printer deals this month. We’ve also rounded up the best printers.
14. Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Having a Bluetooth speaker may not be essential for your education, but it is essential for chill times when there’s no stereo, especially for pre-drinks. No one likes laptop music.
The Creative Nuno Bluetooth speaker featured in our round up of the best budget Bluetooth speakers. It has a 6-hour battery life and at £29.99 (though on promotion for £19.99 at the time of writing) the Creative Nuno does what it needs to do without breaking the bank. It’s currently available in the UK only.
Read our Creative Nuno Bluetooth Speaker review. We also have a round up of the best speaker deals of the month, where you can find even more savings.Read our full Creative Nuno review
Coming in at number five in our top best cheap headphones, the OnePlus Bullets V2. They sound great and look good and best of all only cost £15.99 or $24.95 if you’re in the US.
The earphones come with extra buds of different sizes you can find one that fits you best. There’s also a three button in-line control that lets you adjust volume and pause or play music. A mic also lets you make hands-free calls. The Bullets’ flat cable also prevents tangling, which sounds like an all-round win to us.Read our full OnePlus Type-C Bullets review